City Hall

Dallas Keeps Its Culture Warrior Lawyer for Exxxotica Lawsuit

Dallas' quest to keep Exxxotica out of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will keep its puritanical legal eagle on the job, thanks to the majority of the Dallas City Council that voted to keep Scott Bergthold on the team defending the city against the porn convention's lawsuit.

Bergthold, a graduate of Pat Robertson's Regent University law school, has made a career out of tightening city restrictions against sexually oriented businesses. He's done work for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group that says it advocates for religious freedom, but has done things like help the Central American country of Belize defend a statute that criminalized homosexuality, and defend Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California. According to the City Council members trying to get him removed from the case,  Bergthold, who did not return an interview request, is an ideologue with his own agenda who is threatening the city's ability to defend itself.

Council member Philip Kingston, who voted against the ban and signed the memo asking for a vote on getting rid of Bergthold, said that Bergthold's fervor against pornography and sexually oriented businesses made him unlikely to represent the best interests of the city of Dallas. Kingston's constituents, the council member said, who don't agree with Bergthold and the City Council's moral stand against Exxxotica, shouldn't have to pay for an ideological defense. Bergthold, according to Kingston, is cultivating a "sham legal relationship with the city as a means to his own ends."

Kingston's comments riled up Rawlings, who suggested that they amounted to a religious test for what is, essentially, a city contract. Dallas City Attorney Warren Ernst agreed that Kingston's words themselves might, but simply removing an attorney because the city believes his ideology will keep him from properly doing his job, as was being voted on, did not.

Council members Jennifer Gates and Carolyn Arnold, both of whom voted to ban Exxxotica from the convention center, accused their colleagues who wanted to dump Bergthold of trying to sabotage the case, because it was in their political interest to see the city lose. Because he was selected by Ernst and the city attorney's office, which is not representing the city in the case because the initial vote to ban Exxxotica went against their advice, Gates and Arnold argued, members of the council had no business suggesting  he wasn't among the best-qualified people to be on the city's team.

It wasn't Bergthold's religion, or even his qualifications, council member Mark Clayton insisted, that meant he shouldn't be working for the city of Dallas. It's Bergthold's history of working against LGBTQ causes.

"If this guy was an Aryan leader, we'd be having a totally different conversation," Clayton said, "but because he doesn't like gay people, we are where we are."

Rawlings, Gates, Arnold, Rickey Callahan, Erik Wilson, Adam McGough, Casey Thomas and Tiffinni Young, the council members who voted to ban Exxxotica, all voted to keep Bergthold. They were joined by Sandy Greyson and Monica Alonzo, who voted against the ban. Kingston, Clayton, Scott Griggs, Lee Kleinman and Adam Medrano voted to fire Bergthold.